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Lott, Daschle Re-elected To Senate Leadership Posts

Trent Lott and Don Nickles

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 3) -- In separate closed-door sessions, Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott was the unanimous choice of Senate Republicans to serve as majority leader in the 105th Congress, while Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) got the nod from Democrats.

Lott, a 55-year-old conservative, took the post over from former Sen. Bob Dole when the Kansan resigned last June to campaign for the presidency full-time. Back then, he was challenged for the job by fellow Mississippian Thad Cochran, but this time he ran unopposed. The GOP senators also reappointed by acclamation Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) as majority whip, and Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) was chosen as conference chairman.

Daschle, 48, succeeded former Maine Sen. George Mitchell in the top Democratic Senate post three years ago, narrowly defeating Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). Also voted in by acclamation were Sens. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.) as minority whip and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) as conference secretary.

At a news conference following the GOP meeting, Lott reiterated his pledge to find avenues of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, though he noted the Senate would likely hold hearings on the Democratic National Committee's fund-raising practices. The DNC has returned about $1.5 million in contributions, and Attorney General Janet Reno's Decision not to appoint an independent counsel, Lott said, "actually increases significantly the need for us to have a look at that."

Separately, Daschle called campaign reform the Senate's highest priority, noting, "We would remind our Republican colleagues and everyone else that infractions occurred on both sides."

Having picked up two seats in last month's election, Republicans have a 55-45 majority in the Senate, but are still five short of the 60 votes needed to halt Democratic filibusters. Lott, a conservative with streaks of both ideology and pragmatism, is expected to be shrewd and tough, possibly eclipsing House Speaker Newt Gingrich as chief architect and articulator of the GOP's legislative strategy.

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